BTCC at Brands Hatch 2023 | 6 Talking Points

09th May 2023
James Charman

The British Touring Car Championship rolled into Kent this weekend for its annual trip to the natural amphitheatre of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, and while the weather (mostly) played ball unlike at the season opener two weeks ago, there was just as much excitement and drama to keep BTCC fans chattering for another fortnight. Here are six of the biggest talking points from a wild Brands Hatch weekend.


1. Turkington Gets off the Mark

Every season it’s said that you should write off Colin Turkington at your peril, for even if he doesn’t quite look like he's at the top on pure pace anymore, you just know that he’s likely to be in the title fight one way or another at the end of the year. The four-time champion struggled at the season opener, salvaging a fifth-place finish as a result of the reverse grid draw in the final race of the day and sitting some 25 points off the top spot of the standings. 

Was this a sign that perhaps Turkington’s strongest days are starting to be in his rear-view mirror? Look at the results from Brands Hatch and you’d rethink that hypothesis. Qualifying on the front row of the grid, alongside championship leader Dan Cammish in the NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus, Turkington leapt to the lead at the start of the opening encounter, but all his work would be for nought, as a crash at the tail end of the field brought proceedings to a halt before they could really get going.

Following the ensuing 45-minute delay, it was more of the same from the restart for Turkington, who combined the superior start-line speed of the rear-wheel drive BMW 330e M Sport with the softer compound Goodyear rubber to storm to the front once again. An early bout of pressure from Ash Sutton’s Ford Focus would be the hardest Turkington would have to work for his win, comfortably coming home for his first victory of the year, and the 64th of his career, moving him above Matt Neal in the all-time winners’ rankings. Unable to hold off Sutton in race two, Turkington settled for third behind the three-time champion and reigning champion Tom Ingram, before finishing fifth in the final race of the day.


2. Sutton Back on Form

To say Ash Sutton was disappointed with his points haul at Donington Park would perhaps be the understatement of the season. Having salvaged a single podium after taking just one point across the opening two races, Sutton set about making amends as the series rolled into the short and narrow Brands Hatch Indy circuit. The three-time champion set the second fastest time in the first part of a heavily rain-affected qualifying, but could only manage fourth in the new top-ten shootout format, behind two BMWs and team-mate Cammish.

Having easily dispatched of his team-mate in both starts of race one, Sutton could not compete with the superior speed of Turkington’s BMW, helped by the Team BMW car opting to run softer tyres for the morning encounter. A solid second was a solid result for Sutton, and perfectly set him up alongside Turkington for the start of race two. While the BMW expectedly got off the line better, Sutton made the most of his earlier front-wheel drive grip advantage, pulling off an absolutely perfectly judged manoeuvre to dispatch Turkington. From then on, it was fairly plain sailing for Sutton, who managed the gap to comfortably come home at the head of the pack.

Having pulled out number 11 in the reverse grid draw, it was always going to be tough to finish up at the sharp end for a third occasion. But tough apparently isn’t a word in Sutton’s vocabulary, and by the end of lap five had found himself in second place, hunting down Toyota’s Ricky Collard.


3. Ricky Collard Spoils Breakout Performance

Ever since his return to the BTCC with the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK squad last year, Ricky Collard has been one of those drivers you just felt had a stellar performance within them waiting to come to the fore. Starting from the front row of the grid by virtue of the reverse grid draw, Collard was handed his best chance for a strong result since his podium at Silverstone when substituting for his father Rob in the Team BMW 1-Series.

Not needing a second chance, Collard grabbed it with both hands, launching himself to the front of the field and looking well on course to come home with his first-ever BTCC victory, with his father anxiously watching from the garage. The anxiety could be more than understood as race two winner Sutton had managed to work his way up into second after just five laps, and the next 19 laps saw an incredibly impressive defensive performance from Collard, holding back Sutton with some textbook displays of ‘typical touring car racing’. Unfortunately, it was all for nothing, as Collard would receive a 10-second penalty for track limits infringements, dropping him down to eighth at the line. A visibly frustrated Collard was somewhat scathing in his post-race interview, suggesting that there were ulterior motives from the stewards as a result of something either he or his father had done in the past – a point that Tim Harvey was quick to point out was not the case, and he had simply been caught by the new, much stricter, track limits regulations enforced by Motorsport UK this year.

Race three was one to forget for the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK team, having started off looking like it was on course for its strongest result yet with all three cars in the top five in the opening laps. While Collard was trying to hold his lead at the front, Rory Butcher and George Gamble were embroiled in a very close inter-team battle, allowing BMW’s Jake Hill and the chasing pack to close up. Mechanical gremlins would eventually put an end to Butcher and Gamble’s races, while Collard’s win was taken away thanks to his driving standards penalisation.


4. Consistent Cammish Holds on to Top Spot

Dan Cammish came out swinging on Saturday, firmly staking his claim as a real title challenger with a hugely impressive pole position, despite having the lowest boost available to him due to sitting atop the points table after Donington Park. The Yorkshireman was coy on his chances during the race, knowing that those behind him were going to be snapping at his heels, and it showed right from the off, with Cammish dropping to fourth at the end of the very first lap.

Thinking he’d potentially dodged a bullet thanks to the race one red flag, Cammish was determined to make up for lost ground on the second start – but those plans went out of the window as he watched the same drivers streak past him on the run towards Paddock Hill Bend. Although suffering from the hybrid deficit, Cammish was able to hang on to the rear bumper of his team-mate, coming through to take the final step on the podium with Turkington and Sutton. A charging Tom Ingram and the superior start line speed of Jake Hill’s BMW meant Cammish would drop a further two places before the end of race two.

Starting from seventh in race three, Cammish worked his way up to fifth at the flag, promoted to fourth following a penalty for the eventual winner. Cammish now takes a five-point lead into the next round at Snetterton over reigning champion Tom Ingram, who himself had a solid if unspectacular start to his season. Sutton sits a further five points back in third, before the BMW pair of Turkington and Hill round out the top five, 18 and 30 points behind Cammish respectively. While the gaps between the top three may seem slim, the BTCC is a long 30-race season. Domination in the vein of a Max Verstappen or an Alvaro Bautista is nigh on impossible, so consistency is the key and the way Cammish, Ingram and Sutton drove this weekend were all definite performances of drivers looking to finish the year with their name being engraved on the trophy.


5. Sam Osborne and NAPA Racing Take Control of Tables

When looking at the likelihood of a trophy coming back to the NAPA Racing UK headquarters at the end of the year, you’d most likely assume it would be the overall crown going to either Ash Sutton or Dan Cammish – and you’d probably scoff if anyone suggested Sam Osborne would be bringing home silverware. If the weekend just gone is anything to go by, then Osborne seems to be a real challenger when it comes to Jack Sears Trophy honours this season.

Andrew Watson may have grabbed all the headlines with his performances in the Vauxhall Astra at Donington Park, but the Northern Irishman could not continue that form at Brands Hatch, having got tangled up in the first lap incident in race one. Meanwhile, Osborne was racking up a pair of Jack Sears wins, before finishing second in class in the final race, sharing the top two steps with Excelr8 Motorsport’s Ronan Pearson across the day. As a result, Osborne now holds a two-point lead over Dexter Patterson, with Pearson a further 15 points back.

Meanwhile, with Sutton enjoying two wins and a second, and Dan Cammish enjoying a solid trio of results, Ford has taken command at the sharp end of the Manufacturers’ standings, with a 16-point lead over BMW. Hyundai sits third, just two points behind BMW, while Toyota’s struggles continued and have drifted some 76 points behind the Motorbase Fords. NAPA Racing UK also sits at the top of the Team’s standings, 31 points ahead of Excelr8 Motorsport, and Bobby Thompson has boosted his lead over Josh Cook in the Independents’ table from two points to five.


6. Rain Causes Qualifying Chaos

As if there hadn’t been enough precipitation in the opening weekend of the season at Donington Park, the rain came down just in time to make qualifying at Brands Hatch a little more dramatic. There’s a fine line between drama and farce, however, as there were four red flags in the opening 15 minutes of a 30-minute session as drivers were caught out on the incredibly slippery surface.

The worst of these was a spin for Nicolas Hamilton which left him stranded at the bottom of Paddock Hill Bend, and he had to watch in horror as Adam Morgan’s BMW 3-Series came pirouetting towards him, neither driver able to do anything about the oncoming impact. When qualifying did stay green for long enough, it was a relatively exciting affair, helped by the new two-part format employed at the shorter circuits this season. Waiting until the final moments of the Top Ten Shootout, championship leader Dan Cammish defied the hybrid odds and took pole by over two-tenths of a second – a surprisingly large margin around the short Indy circuit.

There are just another two weeks to wait before rounds seven, eight and nine of this year’s championship, with the Snetterton 300 circuit, the longest on the calendar, hosting proceedings over the 20th and 21st of May.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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  • Dan Cammish

  • Ash Sutton

  • Ricky Collard

  • Colin Turkington

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